The question of when to winterize your boat is a hot topic on the docks for good reason. The timing is a fine line between getting the most of a boating season that is never long enough and not playing fast and loose with something as expensive as a boat engine. You will see everything from “do not worry about it” advice to horror stories that will make you want to winterize in September just to be safe. The answer starts with a few key pieces of data. Here is the straight scoop on when to winterize, as well as important information on how to extend your boating season.
Setting the Date The first step in boat winterizing, and this will sound like odd advice, is to check with The Old Farmer’s Almanac. It has been predicting the weather since 1782 and has a handy breakdown by city, state and zip code. Note it uses the term “Frost” to mean a freeze of 29 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, as this confuses most first-timers.
Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides regional Frost and Freeze maps, as well as the Earliest/Latest Freeze dates for selected cities for the past five years. The NOAA website isn't the easiest to navigate so here's a link to a website that uses their data but makes it easy to search by zip code or city, state.
Once you have reviewed the above information, you can start planning, but keep in mind that this is historical data and an early freeze can quickly destroy an expensive engine. It is a good practice to err on the side of caution.
Additional factors that will come into play include your personal schedule (if you are winterizing yourself) or your mechanic’s schedule (if you are having someone else do the job). If hiring someone, remember that everyone wants to have their boat winterized as late in the season as possible, so call early for the best selection of dates. If you are not going to be using your boat after Labor Day or even sooner for some reason, consider having the winter maintenance done right away. You may get a price break.
Getting a Longer Boating Season Even those who live in low-temperature locales can have some beautiful, warm winter days perfect for a cruise. If you live in an area where there is not too much snow and the waterways do not freeze, you may want to consider leaving the boat in the water. Using an engine compartment heater like those made by BoatSafe, BoatBilgeHeaters.com, and